Objective: We examined the effects of megestrol acetate versus placebo and progressive resistance physical exercise on weight, lean muscle mass, quality of life, ability to exercise, proinflammatory cytokines, and anti-inflammatory cytokines, and their correlations with one another.
Design: We organized a prospective 20-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial of hemodialysis patients.
Setting: This study took place at the Outpatient Unit of the Northport Veteran Affairs Medical Center.
Subjects: We studied nine male hemodialysis patients who had two or more of the following: albumin level <4.0 g/dL, total cholesterol <150 mg/dL, protein catabolic rate <0.8 g/kg/day, and predialysis serum urea nitrogen <60 mg/dL. Their ages were 50 to 83 years. Two were diabetic, and seven were nondiabetic.
Interventions: Interventions included megestrol acetate (MA) or placebo 800 mg oral daily for 20 weeks, along with weight resistance physical therapy with weights twice a week before dialysis. Patients were followed prospectively for an additional 4 weeks.
Main outcome measurements: Weight, body composition, activities of daily living, ability to exercise, and plasma cytokine levels were measured.
Results: At 24 weeks, the MA group had a statistically significant weight gain (11.1-pound increase vs. 1.5-pound decrease for the placebo group, P = .018), body fat gain (6.2-pound increase vs. a 0.4-pound decrease for the placebo group, P = .044) and fat-free mass gain (5-pound increase vs. a 1.2-pound decrease in the placebo group). The MA group also had a greater tendency toward increased appetite and sense of well-being. The MA group showed a greater improvement in ability to exercise (mean change in rate of perceived exertion (RPE), 4.7) vs. the placebo group (mean change in RPE vs. 0.5, P = .02). Elevated cytokine levels were evident at baseline in both groups. In all patients, increases in weight, fat-free mass, sense of well-being, appetite, and ability to exercise were negatively correlated with tumor necrosis factor receptor subunit p75 (P < .05). There was a trend toward all of these parameters to be negatively correlated with tumor necrosis factor receptor subunit p55, although only sense of well-being was statistically significant (P < .05).
Conclusion: In a pilot trial in dialysis patients, MA showed significant benefits in improving weight and ability to exercise. Cytokine changes were correlated with weight gains and increases in fat-free mass.